South West Frogs – Western Australia – Motorbikes and Banjos.

I enjoy wildlife photography so it was a matter of time before my interested piqued in frogs. I thought frogs would be easy to find, after all they are vocal creatures, that are for the most part fairly stationary.

Alcoa Wellard Wetlands

Internet research led me to Alcoa Wellard Wetlands off Mundijong Road 30 minutes South of Perth. This wetland is a series of manmade ponds created after industrial use of the area by Alcoa ceased. One of the ponds is enticingly called the frog pond and I figured this would be a great place to start my search.

On my first visit to the wetlands I went straight to the frog pond and cast the spotlight around expecting to see eye shine back at me from numerous frogs (as is the situation with nocturnal mammals.) This was not the case. The smaller frog species do not give off eye shine and even with larger species this is not always the most reliable way to find them.

On this first visit after a lot of searching I did eventually get eye shine from a Motorbike Frog (Litoria moorei) perched on a dead branch next to the frog pond. I was instantly transfixed by this large colourful frog. Despite the many frog calls from the pond it was the only species I saw that night.

Motorbike Frog (Litoria moorei.)

Walking around the pond was not going to get me the frogs I wanted to see so I purchased a pair of fisherman waders. This allowed entry into the water to get closer to the action in the reed beds where most of the calls were coming from.

Motorbike Frogs can be found after rain events quite far from water. Their calls become more common as spring turns into summer and the call as their name suggests sounds like a motorbike (changing gear.)

Motorbike Frog (Litoria moorei.)

Wading into the pond, it wasn’t long before I found a second species of frog at the wetlands, given away by a harsh grating screech. The Slender Tree Frog (Litoria adelaidensis) is smaller than the Motorbike Frog and often climbs up reeds in order to increase the range of its call.

This is a species associated with reed beds at the side of slow moving water. They are common once pools start to fill with winter rains and can still be found into spring.

Slender Tree Frog (Litoria adelaidensis.)

Other frog species found/heard at Alcoa Wellard Wetlands include the Banjo Frog, Squelching Froglet.

Squelching Froglet (Crinia insignifera.)

Dryandra Woodland

Dryandra Woodland is a two hour drive South of Perth, and is good for a number of frogs. The heavy autumn rains bring out Humming Frogs (Neobatrachus pelobatoides) and the pools formed at the Old Mill Dam area is a good spot for these frogs. May-July I have found are the best months to view these frogs.

Humming Frog (Neobatrachus pelobatoides.)

The first autumn rains of April bring out huge numbers of Western Spotted Frogs (Heleioporous albopunctatus.) These burrowing frogs are one of five species found in South West WA and one of only six species Australia wide. This genus of frog burrows into the soil and waits for water to flood their burrows. They are as a result found in low lying areas prone to winter flooding.

I have also found this species at Boyagin and Tutanning Nature Reserves, as well as the Stirling Range NP.

Western Spotted Frog (Heleioporous albopunctatus.)

One frog that consistently foiled my attempts to locate it, by hiding in dense reeds, was the Banjo Frog (Lymnodynastes dorsalis.) I could always hear but never find it when I was at Alcoa Wellard Wetlands. I had also heard it at Perry Lakes, in fact any permanent body of water in South West WA could potentially have these extremely common, wonderful sounding frogs.

One September at Dryandra Woodland, and the Old Mill Dam was particularly full after winter rains. The level of the dam was so high that overhanging tree branches were dipping into the water. It was from one of these overhanging branches that I could hear the distinctive call of a Banjo Frog. I donned my waders and entered the dam away from the calling frog, then approached the overhanging branches as gently as I possibly could to avoid the frog diving. When I lifted the tree branch lo and behold there was a Banjo Frog! I quickly scooped it up into a tub and took long awaited photos before releasing it back where I found it.

Banjo Frog (Lymnodynastes dorsalis.)

Another time I found a Banjo Frog in the middle of York-Williams Road during the first autumn rains on the way to look for Western Spotted Frogs at Boyagin NR.

Banjo Frog (Lymnodynastes dorsalis.)

Motorbike Frogs are another species that I have found at Dryandra, the Hooting Frog is also found there, but I have yet to see this frog there.

Other Burrowing Frogs

I happened to be down in Busselton in March 2014 when the first rains of autumn passed over the town. After dark the roads were covered in Moaning Frogs (Heleioporous eyrei) as well as the odd Motorbike Frog.

The following month I noticed Moaning Frogs on St Albans Road off Mundijong Rd on the way to Alcoa Wetlands. Here they use the roadside ditches which flood in winter to breed.

Moaning Frog (Heleioporous eyrei.)

After reading up on burrowing frogs I decided that the following year to look for the Western Spotted Frog (see Dryandra Woodland section above.) This frog is mainly found East of the Darling Range in the Wheatbelt so during the first rains of April 2015 I drove out to Boyagin NR to find this species.

I found them on low lying areas of the York-Williams Road on the approach to Boyagin NR also the area around Boyagin Rock is good for them. Other good sites are Dryandra Woodland and I have also seen them at Mt Trio Bush Camp in the Stirling Ranges.

During another trip that April I found frogs on low lying areas of the Brookton Highway as it passes through the Darling Range. I was driving out to Boyagin NR for the Western Spotted Frog and it was raining very heavily. I stopped the car to find my third species of burrowing frog, the Whooping Frog (Heleioporous inornatus) everywhere on the road.

Whooping Frog (Heleioporous inornatus.)

The problem with looking for the burrowing frogs is that once the season is underway they burrow and therefore are not found on the surface during rain, so I had to wait another year to search for the remaining species.

I researched the burrowing frog that has the smallest distribution, the Hooting Frog (Heleioporous barycragus.) This frog is found in a fairly small area in the Darling Range and I had received information from local wildlife guru Simon Cherriman that the first gully North of Chidlow town site was a good place to see these frogs.

This frog is the largest of all the South West burrowing frogs but actually has the softest call, a beautiful owl-like hoot as its name suggests.

After an afternoon of heavy rain in April 2016 my partner Lorenz and I drove to Chidlow to look for the Hooting Frog. We passed over the gully on Lilydale Rd but there were no frogs. Driving on we turned left over the brook turned left again and parked. From there I was able to walk through the bush and up the brook and in a matter of minutes I had found my target!

After photos the rain came down heavily again so we set off for the return journey to Perth. This time there were actually frogs on the road where the brook crosses the road.

Hooting Frog (Heleioporous barycragus.)

I had now photographed four of the five species of burrowing frog that occur in S.W. Western Australia and I didn’t particularly want to wait another year for the fifth. The next rain event I drove to the area of the Brookton Highway that I had seen the Whooping Frog.

It was here I hoped to find the Sand Frog (Heleioporous psammoplilus.) The difficulty with this frog is that it is very similar in appearance to the Moaning Frog so I would have to hear the call to make a positive identification.

In a low-lying area of paperbarks I started to search. There were no frogs around on the surface but there were both Sand Frogs and Whooping Frogs calling. Once I had located a Sand Frog burrow I looked down it, and there just near the entrance was the inhabitant.

Sand Frog (Heleioporous psammoplilus.)

This frog does indeed look like the Moaning Frog and I was glad to have the call as a positive identification. After photos I returned the frog to the burrow.

Reabold Hill (Bold Park.)

I knew of a report of Turtle Frogs from this location and with the type of habitat they like being sandy soils associated with banksia woodland, I knew that Reabold Hill fitted the bill perfectly.

I had read a report of them being found after Summer thunderstorms so late November 2014 a series of thunderstorm cells passed over Perth during the afternoon unleashing large amounts of rain.

It was with great excitement that I went to search for the Turtle Frog that evening after dark. I parked the car on the drive to the car park because the car park is closed at night. I then walked around the boardwalk that leads to the top of the hill (the highest point on the Swan Coastal Plain.)

There was a solitary Turtle Frog calling. It took me a good part of an hour to locate it, as I honed in on the noise until my light ceased the call. Then I would wait for it to start calling again and creep a bit closer. All the while mosquitos feasting on me.

When I finally located the frog, it was on the surface of the sandy soil near some vegetation. I was delighted to finally find this amazing little amphibian, one of the few frogs not to rely on permanent water to breed. It is a trick of nature that the Southwest frog that looks least like a frog, should make the most conventional frog like croak.

Excited as I was with my find I thought I was perhaps too late in the season. After further research I discovered these frogs actually mate in Autumn, in common with the other frogs, except the difference with this species is that they meet and pair up then spend an extended time together in a burrow over the hot months of Summer until it is time to mate, coinciding with the Autumn rains.

Mid-October 2015 after heavy rain Lorenz and I returned to Reabold Hill and the difference was staggering. The call of Turtle Frogs was prolific. This time I searched the banksia woodland West of the car park and down the hill. It didn’t take me long to locate my first frog, then my second, then my third and so on. The frogs were always on bare patches of sand amongst the vegetation.

I have confirmed that Spring is the time to find Turtle Frogs because November 2016 Ry Beaver and I returned to this site and once again found large numbers of Turtle Frogs down the hill from the car park.

I have also pit trapped a Banjo Frog at Bold Park. The third species of frog listed as resident at Bold Park is the Motorbike Frog.

Turtle Frog (Myobatrachus gouldii.)

Yorkrakine Rock (North of Tammin.)

I had by this time exhausted the local larger frog species, so I drove into the Wheatbelt to look for new species. It was a freezing night in May that I drove out to Quairading, a town where there are records of the White Footed Trilling Frog.

In the event I didn’t find or hear this species but I did find a Humming Frog on the Quirading-York Road West of town.

I drove North through the town of Tammin to Yorkrakine Rock to see what was around this large granite outcrop. I could hear but didn’t find Gunther’s Toadlet but there were lots of Bleating Froglets clinging to vegetation in a stream coming off the rock.

Bleating Froglet (Crinia pseudinsignifera)

A visit to Tutanning Nature Reserve near the town of Pingelly on a cold but dry June night gave my first encounter with Gunther’s Toadlet.

I could hear a harsh call, similar to that of a tree frog from a granite outcrop, but as at Yorkrakine I couldn’t find the source.

A closer look at the edge of the pools, showed burrows in the mud and moss from which frogs were calling. They were also calling from under granite lips, which greatly amplified the calls.

I finally got eyes on a frog by turning over a small granite slab to expose the small squat individual below, which although disturbed by the head torch, was immobile long enough for me to snap the picture.

Gunther’s Toadlet (Pseudophyrne guentheri.)

Frog - Tutanning Nature Reserve - Pseudophyrne
Crawling Toadlet

#NatureNeverFailsToImpress!

3 thoughts on “South West Frogs – Western Australia – Motorbikes and Banjos.

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